Serious Fire Hazards at Pittsburgh.
Herbert M. Wilson, engineer in charge of the United States Geological Survey, who is now in charge of the Bureau of Mines at Pittsburgh, has devoted a great deal of attention to the subject of the fire waste of the country. He was in charge of the investigation made by the Geological Survey for the National Conservation Commission, which prepared a great mass of official statistics as to fire waste and the cost of fire fighting. Mr. Wilson is now stationed in Pittsburgh, and was applied to for a statement by the interests there which are investigating fire insurance rates in that city. Mr. Wilson after investigation issued a prepared statement, in which he held in general that conditions in Pittsburgh did not justify a general reduction in rates and that its conflagration hazards were exceedingly serious. Mr. Wilson held that frequently a community or its official representatives were to blame for conditions winch it charges upon others. He said that he knew from his experience that the insurance companies are seeking in every way to prevent fires and preferred a lower average rate with bettered conditions. A community is at fault when it permits the continued existence adjacent to fire resisting structures in conjested centers of such inflammable fire breeders as the frame structures huddled in countless numbers in the more densely built portions of Pittsburgh, He knew from his study of these problems for the United States Government that too often insurance companies are expected to reduce rates or to give as favorable rates as maybe given in other cities when the physical conditions do not warrant such action. He held that Pittsburgh was fortunate in that it has not in many years been visited by a serious lire hazard, yet it is more vulnerable, he said, than San Francisco, Baltimore or Chicago were when each of these cities was nearly destroyed by fire. It would seem that the American people bad become so calloused by the daily reports of fire that their attitude on the subject has become wholly perverted. Mr. Wilson cited the very much lower fire losses in foreign countries, where the building laws are better and personal responsibility is enforced, and closed as follows: “if Pittsburgh wants prosperity and to encourage the growth of diversified industries within its borders, there is hardly any measure which the committee could adopt which would give greater encouragement to the investor or prospective manufacturer than to reduce the fire risks within its borders and thereby reduce insurance rates and accompanying lire taxes of all kinds.”